Race Report Ironman Arizona 2016

“Becky Aaronson from Santa Barbara, California….YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!”

Those are some of the sweetest words I’ve ever heard, ranking right up there with “I do” and “It’s a girl!”… life-changing words that will forever be tattooed on my heart.

Let me start at the beginning though. Since many of you have followed me from the very beginning of this epic journey, I want to share the final details with you so you can cross the finish line right alongside me. Your support and encouragement have meant everything to me this year.

This is looong, so buckle up, grab a cup of coffee or tea and kick back. If you only care to read about the race, you can scroll down to where it says RACE MORNING.


I left Santa Barbara early Thursday morning and arrived in Tempe in the late evening after a long 8-hour drive, including a lovely traffic jam through much of Phoenix. Needless to say, I was glad when the eagle finally landed at the hotel and I was able to crash for the night after unloading an absurd amount of gear.


Friday morning Matt wanted me to get on my bike, so I went for an early morning spin, trying to steel myself against the shocking 43-degree temperature (I know, I’m such a weenie Cali girl now). Yowza. I immediately started worrying about the weather on race day, knowing it would be a loooong, miserable bike ride if it stayed like this.

Swinging by the Ironman Village though, erased every ounce of discomfort I had that morning. I still had goosebumps, but it wasn’t from the cold; it was from knowing my Ironman dream was finally going to become a reality.


Later that morning after a quick breakfast, I walked back over to the village to meet my Smile Train team, get checked in, and pick up my race packet.

I don’t think there’s any more electric, eclectic, or neurotic place in the world than an IM expo, with hundreds upon hundreds of Type A, amp’ed up people in all shapes and sizes, wearing all things compression, milling about, out of their minds, having trained long and hard for months on end all to reach this one point.

Being part of Smile Train’s Team Empower made it all relaxed and fun. My awesome Smile Train ambassador, Jeff Krebs, warmly welcomed me, walked me through the entire check in process, then snapped a picture of me in front of the team banner.


Matt had warned me about the expo before I left Santa Barbara, explaining that it can be a huge energy suck if you’re not careful, so after picking up my race packet and swag bag, going to a required athlete’s briefing, and spending way too much time shopping in the IM merchandising tent, I hoofed it back to the hotel to get out of the sun and put my feet up. It had gone from 43 to 80 degrees in a matter of a just few hours. Gotta love the desert.

I made a concerted effort to stay hydrated all day and eat small amounts of healthy food throughout, but I was running low on energy. I was glad I’d chosen to stay at a hotel with a full kitchen so I could avoid the hassle of trying to figure out where to eat for every meal. I whipped together a sandwich and chilled until later in the evening when I went back for the opening ceremony.

I also worked on getting everything organized for the next day’s practice swim and gear drop, and prepared for my family’s arrival later that night.

Even though I’ve been told I’m the queen of organization (aka-a nutty list-maker), I found one of the most challenging parts about doing an Ironman was mastering race day logistics and organizing all my gear for it. It sounds simple enough, but a lot of thought goes into it.

Unlike a sprint or an Olympic tri where you simply have your checklist, mark everything off, then throw it all in one transition bag and go, for an Ironman, you have to divide up all your gear into the five bags you’re given at registration: a bike bag, run bag, special needs bike bag, special needs run bag, and a morning bag.


Most of it’s straight forward—helmet, bikes shoes, shorts, etc all go in the bike bag, running shoes etc. in the run bag. The tricky part is trying to think through nutrition and the special needs bag, especially knowing you won’t get your special needs bag back at the end. It’s like trying to use a magic ball to predict what you think you’ll need, and hopefully not waste a bunch of stuff.

My husband and daughter flew in late Friday night, so I didn’t get to sleep until nearly midnight—not good for the night you’re supposed to get your best sleep, knowing you’ll never sleep well the night before your event. As with this entire journey though, I decided that if I didn’t let it matter, it wouldn’t. I rarely get solid sleep anyway. It was great to have the loves of my life and #1 Support Crew with me, so it was worth every lost zzz.


Saturday morning, I got up early to do another short ride and a run, and then headed back to the race venue for my practice swim in Tempe Town Lake. My family and I also attended our Smile Train breakfast, sign making, and awards ceremony.

jeffreysign oliviasign


It was a huge relief to have the practice swim go well. Everybody had been talking about how miserable the water was the year before, so I was thrilled the 63-degree water felt much less shocking than our ocean water at home.

Aside from the actual race event, one of the most special parts of doing Ironman Arizona was being part of Smile Train. We had 115 team members who raised over $600,000, providing 2,400 kids around the world with new smiles and much brighter futures.

I was proud that with the help all of my amazing supporters, I was acknowledged as being the 5th place overall fundraiser on the team, raising $9,170, which will provide 36 1/2 new smiles. It made this event all the more meaningful.

After our team gathering, we were led on a VIP tour of the transition areas. This may not sound like a big deal, but it helped ease all our anxieties about the unknowns. The race coordinator also answered a plethora of questions about rules and logistics—yet another little perk of being part of this team.

At the end of our Smile Train gathering, I racked my bike in transition, then walked with my family back to the hotel to rest before returning once AGAIN to drop off my gear bags.


I had this shirt made back in January to celebrate my 50th birthday and my journey to Ironman Arizona. It seemed appropriate to wear it again on this day. I received more than a few knowing smiles from people who could appreciate the “Keep Calm and BRING IT ON” sentiment.



By the end of the day my Garmin told me I’d walked over 20,000 steps—not exactly staying off my feet like Matt and several other people suggested, but that’s the best I could do.

Around 8 pm, after chilling with my family in the hotel for the remaining part of the afternoon, they left to go check into another hotel for the night so I could have the room to myself and get into my Zen race space.

This was right as our dear friends, Kimberly and Sullivan, swung by to say hello, after having just arrived from the airport. They were like a warm blanket of comfort and positive energy. I’m still completely blown away they flew to Tempe just to cheer me on.

Wow, just wow.



No surprise, I didn’t sleep the night before the race (I never do), but I did catch a few zzzzs off and on, then popped out of bed at 2:30 to force myself to eat breakfast.


OMG, my big day had finally arrived!!!

In between eating my delightful breakfast of Ensure, white toast with jelly, and applesauce (ack!), I did a whole lot of deep breathing, stretching, visualizing and getting my water bottles and nutrition ready for my bike and my run bag.

Four thirty arrived in a blink, then it was time to head out the door to walk to the race venue. It was such a surreal experience silently walking in the dark with all kinds of Ironman zombies, completely lost in their thoughts.

The transition area brought us all to life with volunteers in neon orange shirts buzzing with energy, reminding us they were all there just for us.

I went directly to our VIP Smile Train tent and was greeted by our energetic organizers, Lindsay and Kristina, who were wearing crazy wigs and tutus, along with several ambassadors. They had a full breakfast spread ready for our supporters, private porta-potties just for our team, and a fantastic cheering area for our families and friends to base themselves throughout the day.



After placing my water bottles on my bike and dropping off my special needs bags, I pumped up my tires, then got body-marked by a hilarious volunteer. When I told her my age so she could write it on my calf, she screamed, “Girlfriend, you are soooo NOT 50. No way. You go get it, girl.” LOL.

I also tried to keep my wits about me in the midst of all this and do all the things I needed to have a successful day, like eat a PowerBar and sip on water so I wouldn’t bonk on the swim.

Then it was back to the Smile Train tent where I prepared to put on my wetsuit. Butterflies were getting busy in my stomach, so I borrowed a Sharpie and wrote BELIEVE in big letters on my arm and JOY on my right hand, symbolic of what I hoped for the day, and also initials for Jeffrey, Olivia, and YES!). On my other hand I wrote “Fly Tough Bird,” a little shout out to my dad who would have appreciated this day and this journey on so many levels.

Right as I started to head to the swim, Jeffrey, Olivia, Kimberly and Sullivan arrived with hugs and good wishes. This was such a special day for all of us to share together, and I was so appreciative of all they had done for me all year, liquid drops of happiness poured down my cheeks.

After snapping a few pictures, we heard the cannon go off for the pros and I suddenly realized I had spent so much time with my peeps that I needed to rush to the other side of transition to find my place in the age group start.


The swim start was self-seeded, meaning we placed ourselves with other athletes who’d likely swim at about our pace. I had planned to be in the 1:30 group, but couldn’t push my way up through the sea of wetsuits, so I settled in with the 1:40 group and decided not to stress. I knew it was going to be a long day anyway, and preferred to pass people rather than have them swim over me.

As I waited in line with all the others, I made sure to soak up every moment. The sunrise was beautiful, and the weather was perfect—low 50s and partly cloudy. The best part was knowing we wouldn’t be swimming into a blinding glare the first mile.



Photo credit: Ironman Instagram feed

As I looked around, only one or two people looked relaxed. Everyone else seemed like they were trying to manage their own fears and/or expectations. One young woman was crying, several were nervously shifting their weight from foot to foot. One was singing to himself and another neurotically adjusting her wetsuit.

A few dudes pushed their way through the crowd in a brash, entitled kind of way, which didn’t sit well with people who had made sure to get there on time. I just tried to stay in my calm happy bubble and force myself to chow down a Gu and some water so I wouldn’t bonk. Stay grounded and focus on what you need to do to make this a great day.

When it was finally time to jump in the water, I had this moment of terrified euphoria, like I was taking one of the biggest leaps of faith in myself I had ever taken.

“It’s just another swim,” I told myself. “You got this. You’ve done the work. NOW GO GET IT!”

And in I went. Sure enough, I did have it. I felt calm, strong and steady, even when I got clobbered every once in awhile. I had mentally prepared for much worse, so when it only happened a few times, I didn’t fall apart. Just keep going. Just keep going. Stay strong and steady. Relax. Enjoy this moment. You are doing it!

When I reached the first red turn buoy, just before the half-way mark, I glanced at my watch. Thirty-eight minutes. I knew I had this. I even had space to get into my regular swim groove…at least until somebody swerved in front of me or suddenly stopped for no apparent reason. Then I’d have to regroup and dig into my stroke again.

When I saw the final red turn buoy, it felt like a mirage. I thought I still had quite a ways to go, so you can imagine my joy. As everybody else saw the swim exit nearing and heard the loudspeaker booming, it suddenly became chaotic with people trying to sprint to the end, arms and feet flailing in all directions. I tried not to get caught up in the craziness, but rather stay centered until the end.

When I reached the bottom of the stairs to exit the water, I was giddy with relief. A volunteer reached down to give me a hand up and as soon as I reached the top, I found myself doing a full-on happy dance, throwing my arms up in the air and yelling “Yesssss!” I felt like I’d just won the day, getting through what I thought would be the most challenging part of the race for me, and doing it nearly 50 minutes faster than the cut-off time. Halle-freaking-lujah!

I high-fived a whole line of volunteers who were cheering us on, then took off my Garmin (celebrating my 1:33 time) so a volunteer could help me get off my wetsuit before I jogged along to grab my bike bag and continue on to the changing tent.

For those who have never done an Ironman, I have to share the unique detail of the “wetsuit strippers.” After you get your arms out of your wetsuit, they have you lay on your back with your feet up in the air and quickly peel off the rest in the matter of seconds before helping you back up and sending you on your way with your wetsuit.

I can’t even begin to tell you how awesome the volunteers were at this race. So Kind. So positive. So energetic.

The only thing that happened is that when the fabulous volunteer helped pull me up out of the water, I must have turned at a weird angle because I felt a sharp twinge in my hip flexor and inner thigh, like I’d strained a muscle. Yowza. Not good, but I tried not to think about it.

Instead, I focused on the task at hand, getting changed, sunscreened, fueled, and out the door without forgetting anything in the midst of lots of action in a crowded tent.

I wanted to be comfortable on the bike so I opted to put on dry bike shorts instead of wearing wet tri shorts for 112 miles. I also slathered Traumeel on my knees, which get cranky on the bike, and also slapped some on my hip flexor and inner thigh in hopes that would help ease the wonkiness.


A volunteer ran to my bike to unrack it for me. Then I mounted my Garmin on it, which took FOREVER, then eventually ran my bike out of transition and hopped on. Woohoo!!!

Jeffrey, Olivia, Kimberly and Sullivan were right there cheering along the narrow shoot leading out toward the street, which fired me up even more.

Then it was on to the first 38-mile loop and the biggest mental challenge of the entire race. Pros were already on their second or third loop and speedy age groupers were finishing their first loop as I was heading out.

I’ll be honest, this course is tough—not because it has crazy elevation or technical turns—but because it’s monotonous and you always seem to hit wind, no matter which direction you’re going. It’s also tough mentally, knowing you’ll be doing the same loop three times, and the first half is uphill.

About 4 miles into this ride, I was starting to get seriously worried about my hip flexor/inner thigh. Riding in the aero position was miserable. This is NOT happening, I told myself. No way. No how. Just relax and it will go away. Pain is your friend.

But it did not go away. It got to where I could only ride in an upright position, which I knew was a big waste of energy and would surely slow me down, especially with the wind, which picked up as the day went on.

I stopped at one of the first aid stations and tried to stretch it out, but it didn’t help, so I hopped back on and kept going. At the turn around spot at the top of the Beeline Highway, I got off my bike again and tried to massage my hip and stretch it. It also didn’t help.

Thankfully it was mostly downhill back into town. It was just the mental boost I needed to take my mind off the discomfort. The other thing that lifted me right back up was the raucous crowd cheering as I came in to start my second lap—especially my personal fan club. They were THE absolute best.

With each lap the wind got a little stronger, and the road thinned out as the pros were already on to the run, and many age groupers were finishing up their final lap. Clouds were looming and rain was threatening.

Believe it or not, despite all of this, I was so appreciative to be there competing in my first Ironman, I could not stop smiling. Seriously. My face actually hurt from smiling all day.

The other thing that made me smile was remembering that my brilliant coach, Matt, suggested I throw some ibuprofin in my special needs bag in the unlikely event I might need it on race day—something I never would have thought of as I rarely ever take it.

Reaching mile 56, the half way point, was like reaching the Holy Grail. I dug into my special needs bag and quickly popped three Advil, hoping and praying it would do the trick.

Sure enough, not much longer into the ride, everything turned around. I can’t say the pain completely disappeared, but enough to ride in the aero position again, and enough to put the zip back into me to zoom back in for my final loop.

Once again, my peeps re-charged my batteries with their crazy cheering and chanting. And then it was back up the damn Beeline Highway.

This time I knew I was 2/3 done though, and I knew all I had to do was get to the top and it would all be downhill. Also, I think the Advil must have launched some serious happy mojo in me because I was suddenly humming Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. You think I’m kidding, but I’m not.

I was also cheering for tons of people, especially all my Smile Train teammates, and I even started passing people on the way back. My goal was not to stop on the final lap, but I could never bring myself to pee on the bike like most do. Instead, I opted for what felt like the tenth porta-potty break.

The one thing I was diligent about during the ride was staying hydrated and fueled so I wouldn’t bonk and so I’d be prepared for the run, but when you’re drinking 24-30 ounces an hour, you gotta “go.” Let’s just say this did not make for my speediest ride, but I got it done and I did truly enjoy it, bumps and all.


I was so stoked to finally be off the bike, I was loopy. Fortunately, all the volunteers guide you along the way and get you to where you’re supposed to be next.

This time it was back to the changing tent with my run bag. Off with my bike shorts and on with my Smile Train tri shorts. And lots of Icy Hot sprayed on my knees and hip/thigh. Then run shoes, visor and my hand-held water bottles and off I went.

Well, almost.

A frantic volunteer ran into the tent yelling, “Who’s #533?”

“That’s me,” I hollered.

“Do you want your Garmin? You left it on your bike.”

“Oh my god, YES…”

Before I got the “please” out she bolted out the door to get it for me, returning in a sweat.

Did I mention the phenomenal volunteers?

At the expo when we picked up our race packets, inside we found a green wristband with instructions to give it to a volunteer who made a difference in your day. This was the person. Having my Garmin made a huge difference in my run, and I have her to thank for it. Sadly, I was long into the run before I realized I forgot to give her the band. 😦

The first mile of the run was what I expected, a peg-leg run that soon eased into a regular gait. I was stoked to finally be passing people, making up time from my bike. This race wasn’t about beating other people AT ALL, but it definitely gave me an extra mental boost.

After a short out and back jaunt, Mile 4 brought me back to my cheering squad. The Smile Train tent was rocking and lifted me ten feet off the ground. Olivia had a megaphone and Jeffrey organized the group, all chanting, “Becky. Becky. Becky.”


It would be another 9 miles before I’d loop back around and see them again, but each aid station was just 1-mile apart so there was support all along the way, even on the “lonely side of the lake.”

I felt surprisingly strong, and was happy I never hit “dark moments” for which I’d mentally prepared. I saw tons of people battling demons all along the racecourse, walking, limping, looking miserable, and barely hanging on. Maybe it was popping  more Advil at the halfway point, but somehow I managed to skirt the darkness, and for that I’m grateful. I tried to offer encouragement to as many people as I could, and even handed out Tums to those who were losing their cookies.

I fueled almost my entire run with the unlikely combination of Coke, chicken broth, water, Red Vines, and pretzels. Who would have ever thunk?

Somehow my stomach survived this wicked combo, and only had me seeking out a porta-potty a couple times along the course.

You’re going to think I’m nuts, but the run actually went by much faster than I ever imagined. Between the rocking aid stations, my cheer squad, and simply knowing every step was bringing me closer to hearing those magic words at the finish line, I was never discouraged. Not for one minute.



In fact, the last 3 miles I started picking up the pace and quit stopping at aid stations all together. “Whoa girl, you go,” I heard more than once. “You got this. You look strong.”

The last mile felt like it took three days, but I could hear the finish line and knew that I would soon become an Ironman, which gave me a huge lump in my throat.

Every step was a mix of agonizing joy, my body ready to be done, but my spirit totally on fire.

A flood of thoughts and emotions washed though me. At one point my mom popped into my head. She was never athletic so when I grew up doing sports, and later running marathons, she’d always worry and say things like, “Don’t overdo it, Becky,” which of course made me want to push harder to prove that I could overdo it and be just fine.

After powering on from 7:00 in the morning until 9:30 at night, I chuckled and thought, “Look mom, I’m overdoing it again, and I am more than fine. In fact, I’ve never felt better or more alive!”

The last turn into the long finisher’s shoot was magic. Throngs of people were cheering and high-fiving me as if I were the first place finisher.

Then I heard Mike Reilley’s voice call out those magic words, “Becky Aaronson from Santa Barbara, California…YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!”

Holy crap, I did it! I threw my arms in the air and celebrated every second of that electric moment.

Any limitation I had ever placed on myself had just been shattered.

A volunteer placed a medal around my neck and then my peeps bombarded me with flowers and a massive bottle of champagne…the perfect exclamation point to an incredible journey.


“Life isn’t measured by the breaths we take, but the moments that take our breath away.”

I never want Olivia to feel like she shouldn’t “overdo it” because as we know, some of the best things in life happen when we push beyond our limits. I was ecstatic she could experience this with me…not to mention, the love of my life, Jeffrey, who was the true super hero of this year, pulling yeoman’s duty so I could make this dream come true.


Here’s to dreaming big and surrounding ourselves with people who believe in our dreams as much as we do.

Thank you everyone for all your love and support this year and for believing in me.

And a HUGE shout out to Matthew Tague for being a phenomenal coach. He’s one of the biggest reasons I arrived at the starting line in one piece (no minor miracle for this injury-prone runner). Not only did Matt put together a training schedule that fully prepared me physically for this race, but he also continually reminded me to work on my mental game, and all the little details of race day like nutrition, clothing, and logistics. Most of all, he reminded me to appreciate the journey along the way. That my friends, I did with ease.

xo Becky

Ironman Race Week: Wrapping it Up with a Bow

It seems fitting that my last week of training in Santa Barbara ends on a beautiful note, a final gift that wraps up this entire journey with a dazzling bow. I did my last run on Tuesday just as the sun was setting so I could practice running in the dark again. This is what I was given. Life is definitely good, my friends.


lastrun111516  finalrunstearnswharf111516
Yesterday, after meeting with Matt for a final powwow to go over my race plan and talk logistics and mental strategies, I did a short ride…a quick little spin to get my legs moving…stopping at Butterfly Beach to savor the end of this epic year of training. Aaaah, what a gift this has all been. I don’t take it for granted for a second.

Then is was home to try to jam all this stuff into my transition bag. This just makes me laugh. And believe it or not, it all fit!

Getting pumped along the way…writing few notes to myself on my water bottles to remind me to be in the moment and enjoy it all. My family wrote on all my others, which makes them extra special.

Since this blog is part part sharing with you, and partly a journal for me, I continue to jot down all the details so I remember it.

Here’s what this week’s schedule looks like as #533 zips off to Arizona:

Monday: Swim 2250 y
Tuesday: Run 4 miles
Wednesday: Bike 45 minutes
Thursday: Drive to Tempe
Friday: Bike 45 minutes
Saturday: Practice swim in the lake, Bike 30-45 minutes with surges, Run 10-15 minutes with surges
Sunday: Race Day!!!

I’ve received so many wonderful emails and encouraging blog and FB comments, I’m truly blown away. This is one of my favorites notes I received in the mail–awesome art and words of encouragement from one of my former running club kids. So incredibly sweet. Thank you Theo! It means a lot.
And a gift left on my doorstep from my BFF, Kimberly. Yep, I was welling, especially when I read the inscription. xo

Thanks again for all your support, encouragement, advice and love everyone. It has fueled me all year and it will fuel me to the end.

Now it’s time to get this show on the road and do this thing!!!

xo B

Parting thought….




Week 44 of Ironman Training: Holy Freaking Craziness

Holy freaking craziness, people, we are almost there!!!! AND I’m still in one piece! I’ve worked my tail off this year, and my heart and mind tell me that I’m more than ready to go. No matter what happens on race day, they’re going to carry me to the finish line. #MindOverMuscleBaby

Bring. It. On.

I don’t know if you can tell, but I’m a little bit excited, and my body is feeling great. After Monday’s final epic 9-hour workout, which kicked my butt, I’m in taper mode, scaling back, recovering, recharging, and getting fired up like never before. It’s all part of the process, and it’s giving me time to stop and pinch myself.

This is really going to happen!

I’ve got news for you…YOU are also going to be doing Ironman Arizona, because I’m taking all of you with me on race day. I’m going to carry all the love and support you have showered me with and I’m going to lean on you when I need it most. Together we are going to get this thing done, hopefully with a huge smile on my face.

If you want to know what’s in store for us, you can take a peek at last year’s IMAZ YouTube video. Goosebumps!

As I continue to work toward getting to the starting line, here’s what this week’s schedule looked like (October 31st-November 6th):

Monday: Epic Day Metric Ironman (swim 1.5 miles, bike 70 miles, run 16 miles)
Tuesday: Swim 2000y (recovery), core
Wednesday: Run 30 minutes (recovery pace), core
Thursday: Swim 2000y (recovery), core
Friday: Bike 45 minutes on bike trainer, core
Saturday: Bike 45 minutes, Run 30 minutes off bike (pushing faster on the second half of each), core
Sunday: Rest/recovery, stretch class, core

Last Monday was a trial run for what’s to come on race day…a mini Ironman. Once again I practiced everything I’ll do on the course from nutrition to clothing, pacing to mental strategies. I cannot sugarcoat this training day. It was tough. Actually, parts of it were brutal, mostly because my knees decided to be unusually cranky. BUT, I got through it by digging into my bag of mental tricks. Done. Done. Done. BAM.

I tried to time it like IMAZ so I got up before 5:00 am to eat breakfast: toast, Ensure (ack), applesauce and a few sips of coffee, then sips of Tailwind on the way to the pool. I got in the water a little before 7:00, when my swim wave would be starting in AZ. I had hoped to make this an ocean swim, especially since my sweet husband bought me a new wetsuit as another phenomenal show of support, but after our recent rains (yay!!), the bacteria levels in the water have been really high. Don’t want to risk getting sick, so I opted for the pool.

The swim, for the most part, was fine. I got it done in 55 minutes (2:05 pace), still not Michael Phelps pace, but I’ll take it. I just jumped in and started swimming without a warm-up, which never feels great, but because that’s what it will be like on race day, I wanted to see how it would feel…although I’m sure it will be a lot more shocking in 63 degree water temperature and nearly 3,000 people splashing around. 🙂

After quickly changing, I zipped down to East Beach where I based myself for the bike and run. It was a gorgeous morning, so it was hard to feel anything but gratitude for this day.

Feeling optimistic and ready to roll at the beginning of this ride…

For the ride I did two 35-mile loops down to the Rincon and back, a route I’ve done numerous times. It’s not completely flat as a pancake, but as close as I can get around here, with a just a few minor hills in Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria.

It was just me and the open road…and a lot of time on my hands to try to ignore my cranky knees. I gave myself pep talks, thought about all the cool people in my life, sang, and mostly visualized race day and how I’m going to rock it.
The other thing I focused on was my nutrition. You can’t zone out too much because if you forget to eat or drink, you’ll pay for it on the run. I try to drink one bottle of Tailwind every hour and wash down a Gu energy gel with water about every 45 minutes. I also pop a Skratch Lab chew, pretzel, or bite of a PowerBar into my mouth here and there. It’s a fine balancing act staying fueled, but no overdoing it so your stomach doesn’t go south on the run.

I have to admit, I was doing a major happy dance when I finally got off the bike a little more than 4 1/2 hours later. Then it was on to the run.

I don’t know why, but this was one of the hardest runs I can remember doing in a long, long time, sixteen long miles on concrete. I’m attributing it to cumulative fatigue from weeks and weeks of training. Let’s just say, I dug out every mental trick I had to get through this one.

By now, you already know what a nut I am, so I might as well share the one thing that got me through this run (besides drinking Coke (ack!!!)…it was remembering five words my dad said to me at the very end of his life when I was a young college girl…

“You are a tough bird.”

Those five words have gotten me through a lot in my life, and they were especially helpful on this run. It wasn’t a speedy pace, but I got it done, at times visualizing a giant bird carrying my dad on its back, lifting me up by the back of my tri top and carrying me along. My legs suddenly felt lighter, my knees less angry, my spirit stronger. And then, batta boom, finally, this run was logged in the books.
Next time, I’ll be swimming 0.9 miles farther, biking 42 more miles, and running another 10.2 miles, but I know I will get it done on race day, in much better form, because I will be rested and ready to go. I already feel like a new person from this recovery week. Woot!!

Recovery weeks also allow you to do things that have been hard to jam in during regular training weeks, like an afternoon stroll along Shoreline Park with my main squeeze, and a relaxing lunch date afterward.

And surprising my sweet girl by cleaning her bedroom as my way of saying, “Job well done for working so hard in school.”
Wednesday evening’s recovery run was relaxing and rejuvenating as I cruised along the soft grass while Olivia was at ballet…aaaah.
The other thing I could do this week with my extra time was focus on my Smile Train fundraising. I have been completely blown away by the support I have received this week for Team Empower…30 people have contributed to Smile Train and funded five more kids for life-changing cleft surgery. My heart is full!! As of now, 29 children will have their lives changed when I cross the finish line. All because of YOU. That is freaking amazing!!

Friday’s sweatfest on the back patio.
Saturday morning I joined my family for the first time in ages for a little outing to Farmer’s Market, then a sweet breakfast date at Recipes, home of some of the best coffee in Santa Barbara, and the most wicked cinnamon buns you’ll ever find (shhhhh….don’t tell Coach Matt).

My True North (and South, East and West)

My True North (South, East and West)

After morning family fun, I had my own fun…burning off that cinnamon bun with a short brick workout…45 minutes on the bike, followed by a 30 minute run, pushing the last half of both so I finished strong. I felt fantastic, having had such a rejuvenating week.
Then to top off this awesome week, it was date night at the art museum with this guy. Life is good…
Today is a rest day, with specific instructions from Matt to nap, go for a walk and eat good food. I’m liking this taper thing! I’m also heading to a stretch class, which always puts me in my happy place. 🙂

Until next time, fabulous peeps…we are getting so close, I can almost hear Mike Reilly’s voice! Let’s do this!

xo B
PS: In case you missed my Facebook posts, SB friends, as my final push to Arizona, I’m raffling off a $50 gift certificate to JANE restaurant and a bottle of wine to raise more funds for Smile Train. Each ticket costs just $5. All you have to do is go to my fundraising page (click link HERE) and make a donation and you’ll automatically be entered into the drawing. The winner will be announced on November 14th. $5 from many different people can add up quickly, and make a huge difference in a child’s life.

PSS: As always, if you missed any of my previous posts about Ironman training, you can click on the links below:

Kicking off My Journey to Ironman Arizona
Week One of Ironman Training: Believe
Week Two of Ironman Training: The Power of Friends
Week Three of Ironman Training: I Think I Can
Week Four of Ironman Training: Progress
Week Five of Ironman Training: Wind at my Back (and Front) and Peeps by My Side
Week Six of Ironman Training: Baking a Cake
Week Seven of Ironman Training: Courage
Week Eight of Ironman Training: It’s All About the Base
OMG, You did WHAT?! (AKA Sleep Deprivation + Training = Embarrassing Moments)
Week Nine of Ironman Training: Growing Pains
Week Ten of Ironman Training: Trust
Week 11 of Ironman Training: Speedbumps and Breakthroughs
Week 12 of Ironman Training: A Bundle of Sticks Can’t Be Broken
Week 13 of Ironman Training: Spring!

Week 14 of Ironman Training: Rollercoaster
Week 15 and 16 of Ironman Training: Staying Happy and Healthy

Week 17 and 18 Ironman Training: Inspiration and Purple Rain
Weeks 19 through 21 of Ironman Training: Transitions

Week 22 and 23 of Ironman Training: Holy Epicness…Julie Moss
Week 24 of Ironman Training: Consistency is the Key
Week 25 of Ironman Training: Embracing New Challenges
Week 26 of Ironman Training: Hills, They’re What’s for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
Week 27 of Ironman Training: Taking This Show on the Road (Tri-cation!)
Week 27 of Ironman Training: High Altitude Tri-cation
Week 27 of Ironman Training: High Altitude Fun Continues
Week 28 of Ironman Training: Rocky Mountain High
Week 28 of Ironman Training: Finishing Aspen Strong
Week 29 and 30 of Ironman Training: Rollercoasters, Crazies, and Comebacks
Week 31 of Ironman Training: New Heights
Week 32 of Ironman Training: 100 Days to Go
Week 33 of Ironman Training: The Art of Recovery and Balance
Week 34 of Ironman Training: The Magic of Firsts
Week 35 of Ironman Training:Chasing the M-Dot with Toughness Training
Week 36 of Ironman Training: Miles of Opportunities
Week 37 of Ironman Training: IMAZ Training Camp and Tempe Tri Race Report
Week 38 of Ironman Training: Much to Celebrate and Carpinteria Race Report
Week 39 of Ironman Training: Why I Tri and Try
Week 40 and 41 of Ironman Training: Think Like a Dog and Train Like a Mouse
Week 41 of Ironman Training: Mind over Muscle
Week 42 of Ironman Training: #533 is Savoring the Last 23 Days Until IMAZ
Week 43 of Ironman Training: The Joys of Joy and Peak Week

Week 43 of Ironman Training: The Joys of Joy and Peak Week

Many of you know one of my greatest joys is coaching kids running teams and sharing my passion for the sport with the next generation. I love paying it forward, empowering young runners and motivating them to see themselves in new ways.

I’ve been doing this for over four years now with a program I created consisting of about 1/3 running and fitness, 1/3 motivation and inspiration, and 1/3 sportsmanship, team building and “life.”

I’ll admit it has been a little tricky pulling it all together this season in the midst of training, but it has always been worth the effort. Last week I zoomed into practice with just a few minutes to spare after riding nearly 50 miles and doing a half hour transition run. Fortunately, since I know I have to be hyper-organized this season to pull it off, it all magically came together. They had a blast and so did I. This little band of happy feet inspires me to no end and lifts my tired dogs ten feet off the ground.


One of the things we talked about was our Word of the Week: JOY. I typically choose words like determination, courage, goals etc., but JOY is something I’ve been thinking about a lot while I’ve been training, so I wanted to share it with my kids.

I try to find joy in every workout I do, not matter how hard it is or how challenging the day is in terms of terrain, weather, timing, fatigue, logistics. etc. Sometimes I just find joy in the fact that I “get” to do what I’m doing or that the blasting wind is helping me get stronger, or I find joy in the fact that I’m doing something really hard that a lot of people would never attempt.

I wanted to remind my athletes to always try to find JOY in what they’re doing while they’re doing it, even if it’s hard or monotonous. I gave them several ideas of how they can do that with running, school work and even chores around the house, and they also came of with several of their own, which as you can imagine, gave me tremendous JOY. 🙂

The other thing that gave me tremendous joy last week was knowing that I’ve reached the highest point of my training for the entire year. HOLY PEAK WEEK BATMAN!!! I’ve made it in one piece!!! So freaking exciting!!! Now it’s time to taper, recharge, and fine-tune everything for race day. Booyah!

Here’s what my schedule looked like for the week of October 24th-30th…

Monday: Yoga/Pilates, Swim 5000 y (2.8 miles), core
Tuesday: Run 6.25 miles, core
Wednesday: Bike 3 hours, Run 30 minutes (transition run), core, run with my kids team
Thursday: Swim 1750 y with a 1000 TT, Run 8 miles, core
Friday: Rest
Saturday: Bike 1 hour, core
Sunday: Swim 1.5 miles, Bike 70 miles, Run 16 miles (metric Ironman distance) postponed a day due to rain :-(. I’ll be writing about this whopper of a workout soon though! Instead: 1 hour stretch class and 700 y swim.

Here are a few snaps from the week:

Tuesday I ventured to the track for the first time in ages. I wasn’t doing speedwork, but I wanted to run a couple of miles on a soft surface before hitting the road for the remainder of my run. It reminded me how much I love/hate the track, and how I’m looking forward to getting back to it after IMAZ.


Not a bad place to cool down and stretch…
And then more core work…bridges…
Wednesday’s 3 hour ride was gray and brrrrrrr, making it a little hard to get excited about it.

Here I’m finding some joy in the fact that I had to stop and dig out my sunglasses because the sun finally came out.
I also found joy in the fact that I got my transition run done in time to get to my kids running club in time.

Thursday I was a little (ok, a lot) whooped from six days in a row of working hard, so I had to dig for some motivation to get my butt out the door for my 8-mile run. As I’ve mentioned before, whenever I’m dragging, the first thing I do is head to my workout wall and remind myself that I’ve done all these workouts in the past so doing one more won’t kill me.
Then I get silly. I think I need more spinach!
Then I don lots of compression items and make sure I wear bright colors to make myself feel cheery (even if I’m not, and even if I look ridiculous).
Yeah, I was definitely fried at the end, but I got it done by practicing some of my mental tricks (mantras, visualization, etc.) and also reminding myself that the next day I had off to rest. It also brightened my run when my friends, Tami and John, happened to drive by and stop to cheer me on. So unexpected on this sleepy back road!

Friday’s rest day was AWESOME, especially because it rained!!! So refreshing. Loved it. Mother Nature timed things perfectly too, so it cleared up on Saturday for my ride. I thought I was going to luck out on Sunday for my Epic Day, but when I woke up at 5:30 and saw pouring rain, I decided to postpone it a day and go back to bed to get some much-needed rest. I did my Epic Day yesterday, and Epic doesn’t even come close to describing it. More on that one soon.

In the meantime, the countdown is on…only 19 days to go until I’ll be swim-bike-running through Tempe! And only 12 days left to raise more funds for Smile Train. If you’ve been thinking about donating, but haven’t pushed the button yet, today is the day to do it! You have the power to change someone’s life for the better, and there’s nothing more exciting or gratifying (at least in my book).

Here’s the link to donate: BECKY’S SMILE TRAIN PAGE. Thank you Bartholomew Family for your recent generous contribution!!

Until next time, awesome peeps. I hope you find JOY in all you do. Happy November!
xo B


PS: As always, if you missed any of my previous posts about Ironman training, you can click on the links below:

Kicking off My Journey to Ironman Arizona
Week One of Ironman Training: Believe
Week Two of Ironman Training: The Power of Friends
Week Three of Ironman Training: I Think I Can
Week Four of Ironman Training: Progress
Week Five of Ironman Training: Wind at my Back (and Front) and Peeps by My Side
Week Six of Ironman Training: Baking a Cake
Week Seven of Ironman Training: Courage
Week Eight of Ironman Training: It’s All About the Base
OMG, You did WHAT?! (AKA Sleep Deprivation + Training = Embarrassing Moments)
Week Nine of Ironman Training: Growing Pains
Week Ten of Ironman Training: Trust
Week 11 of Ironman Training: Speedbumps and Breakthroughs
Week 12 of Ironman Training: A Bundle of Sticks Can’t Be Broken
Week 13 of Ironman Training: Spring!

Week 14 of Ironman Training: Rollercoaster
Week 15 and 16 of Ironman Training: Staying Happy and Healthy

Week 17 and 18 Ironman Training: Inspiration and Purple Rain
Weeks 19 through 21 of Ironman Training: Transitions

Week 22 and 23 of Ironman Training: Holy Epicness…Julie Moss
Week 24 of Ironman Training: Consistency is the Key
Week 25 of Ironman Training: Embracing New Challenges
Week 26 of Ironman Training: Hills, They’re What’s for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
Week 27 of Ironman Training: Taking This Show on the Road (Tri-cation!)
Week 27 of Ironman Training: High Altitude Tri-cation
Week 27 of Ironman Training: High Altitude Fun Continues
Week 28 of Ironman Training: Rocky Mountain High
Week 28 of Ironman Training: Finishing Aspen Strong
Week 29 and 30 of Ironman Training: Rollercoasters, Crazies, and Comebacks
Week 31 of Ironman Training: New Heights
Week 32 of Ironman Training: 100 Days to Go
Week 33 of Ironman Training: The Art of Recovery and Balance
Week 34 of Ironman Training: The Magic of Firsts
Week 35 of Ironman Training:Chasing the M-Dot with Toughness Training
Week 36 of Ironman Training: Miles of Opportunities
Week 37 of Ironman Training: IMAZ Training Camp and Tempe Tri Race Report
Week 38 of Ironman Training: Much to Celebrate and Carpinteria Race Report
Week 39 of Ironman Training: Why I Tri and Try
Week 40 and 41 of Ironman Training: Think Like a Dog and Train Like a Mouse
Week 41 of Ironman Training: Mind over Muscle
Week 42 of Ironman Training: #533 is Savoring the Last 23 Days Until IMAZ

Week 41 of Ironman Training: Mind Over Muscle

Thank you IMAZ training for reminding me once again that I can do hard things. Yesterday I had a 6-hour triple brick workout (bike-run-bike-run-bike-run) and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it because before I even set out on this long day, I had a knot in my calf the size of a baseball. You know, the kind of knot that keeps you up at night and leaves you walking like a pirate with a peg leg. I decided to get on my bike anyway, and see what I could do, hoping it would magically work its way out. Well, you know what happened…the rest is history. Done. Done. Done. Done. Done. Done. #mindovermuscle #doepicshit(asElkeoftensays)

It definitely wasn’t easy, but I had no illusion that it would be. I didn’t get started until nearly noon because I had a meeting to attend at 10:30. It was a late start to a long day, but I’m glad because it mirrored what race day will feel like, especially running in the chilly evening.

As all my endurance athlete friends will attest, when you’re out on the road for a long time, you get to see and experience a boatload of interesting things.

Here is just a sprinkling of what I saw yesterday:
A ukulele club performing at East Beach
A wedding
A vintage military plane flyover
A lacrosse tournament
The tiniest little guy (2 years, if that) riding his scooter in the middle of the bike path, blissfully zigzagging, oblivious that he was about to get taken out multiple times while his parents were staring at their phones
Teenage boys doing flips off sand dunes
The Vietnam remembrance wall
A drum circle
Tourists in their tourist bubbles
Surfers riding perfect waves
Drivers opening car doors without looking to see a cyclist coming (eek!)
My coach! What a surprise to see Matt’s smiling face in the middle of my second brick as he seemingly appeared out of nowhere while I stopped to snap a picture of these flowers. His words of encouragement added another dollop of fuel to my motivation. Thanks Coach!
A car full of teenage boys, music blaring, crossing over a double yellow line, recklessly trying to pass four cars at once (sadly, I think we’ll be reading their obits before long)
Fellow IMAZ’er, Elda Rudd, running along the bike path (so bummed we didn’t coordinate our workout!)
A street band entertaining passersby
A gorgeous sunset over Butterfly Beach
Stopping for a minute to drink in the moment.
People taking a bazillion selfies (including a couple of my own-ack)
Lovers embracing
Several runners out doing their long training runs
The Maritime Festival
A group of dudes hanging out at Leadbetter, and me overhearing, “Dude, that chick has been running for hours. I saw her when we got here a long time ago.” 🙂
The wind…the #%$! wind…which I consider a gift, even if I loathe it, because it’s helping me get stronger and preparing me for race day. It reared it’s head big time on my last brick. Brrrr. Glad I had a wind jacket.
A STUNNING full moon rise…the kind you see in children’s books…the perfect end to a perfectly challenging and fulfilling day.
Good night moon.
As cliche as it sounds, doing your first Ironman truly is about the journey. The race is one day, but the road to the starting line is hundreds of days and thousands of hours. It’s important to love, appreciate, and honor all the ups and downs of those training days, even on toughest ones. Otherwise what’s the point? I can honestly say, this journey has far surpassed any expectations I ever had. Just learning that I can bike and run for six hours with a knot in my calf taught me something new: our mind is by far our strongest muscle.

Only 35 days to go now!!

Until next time, my friends…
xo Becky

Week 37 of Ironman Training: IMAZ Training Camp and Tempe Tri Race Report

Last week was an awesomely EPIC week of training–one in which I learned a lot more about myself and all the exciting challenges that lie ahead on this journey to Ironman Arizona. The highlight was participating in an Ironman training camp in Tempe over the weekend, on the actual course where the race will take place just 9 weeks from now.

Smile Train and QT2 Systems put this camp together for our team so we could familiarize ourselves with the course, get to know each other and celebrate our fundraising efforts, which will help change the lives of hundreds of kids who have cleft lip and palate. I can’t say enough good things about this phenomenal team and organization. Good people with big hearts, and fierce athletes who find no greater joy than in supporting others and helping them reach their goals.


This is our team, feeling pumped and ready for November, after a private Q & A session with the IMAZ Race Director, Judy Stowers (center in blue). Photo credit: Smile Train

Let me start at the beginning though. I arrived in Tempe Thursday evening after a loooong, nutty drive (especially navigating through LA during rush hour traffic), just in time to check into the hotel, meet our team leaders, Kristina and Lindsay, then join a small crew participating in a swim-run race called Splash and Dash.


Here’s Lindsay on the left and Kristina on the right with our team coach, Brad (QT2) and two super supportive, enthusiastic Smile Train ambassadors (center).

I have to admit, I was not one bit excited about doing this event. I was fried from driving for 9 hours, hungry (the story of my life), and a little nervous, not knowing how serious all these fit looking folks were about this race. It was also too warm for a wetsuit, so I knew I wouldn’t have the buoyancy I’ve come to rely on to keep my hips and legs up when I swim, meaning I’d likely be slower. BUT, it was a spectacular evening, with a harvest moon, and I told myself I had come all the way to Tempe to get the most out of this weekend, so I made myself get my ass in the water. Don’t think. Just go.

And I’m glad I did because it was a great experience. I did the 750m race, which felt just right, especially after doing a hard swim workout the day before. It was especially good practice trying to sight the buoys while swimming straight into the blazing evening sun, and also avoid getting kicked while trying to tuck in behind other swimmers. The water temperature was 80 degrees, a far cry from our chilly ocean, which was delightful. Not to mention, I didn’t think about sharks once. Ha Ha!


Several of my teammates did the 1500m swim and/or the swim and run so I hung out and cheered them on with the rest of the crew. After the Splash and Dash, one of our Smile Train ambassadors, Brian Lewis, drove a few of us to Whole Foods so we could stock our refrigerators for the weekend. Staying at the Marriott Residence Inn, we each had a full kitchen, which made it easy not having to eat out every meal.

After a very long day, I finally ate dinner in my room around 9:00 pm, then spent a couple hours unwinding and organizing all my gear for the next day, eventually turning out the light around midnight (way past my bedtime).

The next morning I dragged myself out of bed at 5 am to eat, have coffee (yes, I brought my beloved French Press), stretch, and get my nutrition ready for our first ride, which would be a 38 mile loop of the Ironman Course. We met at Tempe Town Park at 6:30 and rolled out at 7:00.
It took a little getting used to riding on the roads in Tempe. There are many more cars here going much faster than what I’m accustomed to, and when we turned onto the Beeline Highway, it was like riding on the 101–cars zooming along at 75, debris in the road and not much room for error. What made it all settle into feeling okay was doing this ride with the team, many of whom live here or who have done the race before.

And it was especially awesome having Pam Kallio from TriSports.com riding behind us acting as the “sweeper” in case somebody had an issue. Pam has completed 17 Ironman triathlons and didn’t do her first one until she was 47. When she first started, she said she could barely make it to the end of 25m pool without stopping. She’s quite an inspiration, and more importantly, a really nice human being.

It was a warm and windy ride, which is what I expected, but it felt like it took a looooong time to get to the turnaround point on the Beeline. After we finally reached it and started heading back to town, we were all spread out, with the leaders blazing along at top speed and the rest of us pushing it at our own pace. I was riding near the middle-to-back with Brad, when we heard a siren coming toward us on the opposite side of the highway. I instantly had a sinking feeling in my stomach, and hoped it wasn’t for one of us.

Sure enough, it wasn’t long before Brad received a message that Misha had crashed. My heart sank. Turns out somehow she hit the rumble strip along the highway and flipped over her aerobars, breaking her collarbone and scraping up her face. Oooweeee oooweeee, ouch. It was bad, but it definitely could have been much worse. And thankfully, Pam was there with her when it happened so she could call for help.

After returning to Tempe Town Park, we ran for an hour along the lake, which is part of the IMAZ run course. Whooo doggy, I was glad I had practiced running in the heat in Palm Springs a short while ago. It definitely takes some getting used to running in 95 degrees, even if it is a dry heat.
After a short lunch break, we all met up again at the Arizona State University rec center for our swim workout. I was happy to be getting into the pool after melting much of the day. Rumor has it that Michael Phelps trained here so I was hoping to channel my inner Phelps while doing laps.

The coaches separated us into lanes based on our projected IMAZ swim finish times. The 1 -1:20 hour finishers were in the first three lanes on the far right, with the rest of scattered throughout the lanes. Christine and Carol shared a lane to my left and I shared a lane with Colin, a a funny, self-deprecating guy who I thoroughly enjoyed. We got along swimmingly as we knocked out our workout–or more accurately, “suffered through our workout.” Our legs were both cramping from dehydration, as were many others, so there were several moments of mid-stroke Iron agony. All-in-all though, it was a great day of training.
I was happy to call it a wrap and to have also gotten several technique pointers from our other coach, Tim Snow, who not surprisingly, noticed several things I could improve upon. I could immediately feel a difference and hope the changes he suggested become ingrained into my swimming psyche so this swimming thing starts to feel more and more natural.
After another brief break, we met in a conference room and listened to presentations about ways to gain speed by Pam from TriSports.com, and about nutrition and pacing from Coach Brad. Fueling has been a challenge for me as I seem to be perpetually hungry on the bike, so this was especially helpful. Brad has done multiple Ironman races and just completed the Leadville 100 endurance run so he’s figured out a few nutritional strategies that he shared with us.
First off, he said, “Only sports drinks on the bike–no water,” explaining the reason we were all cramping in the pool today was because we were dehydrated and didn’t have enough sodium. Sports drinks solve many of those problems, but if you also drink water, it dilutes it so you’re back to square one.

The other thing that surprised me was that he recommended not eating any protein as it’s hard to break down and would most likely contribute to GI problems during the marathon. Good to know, as I was intentionally trying to add protein to my bike nutrition to see if it helped with my hunger. Instead, he recommended eating energy gels every 15-30 minutes and a PowerBar or two along the way. I chuckled when he said the surest way to spend a lot of time in the porta potties is to have mixed nuts, peanutbutter and ClifBars on the ride, which have lots of protein, fat and fiber. Those were the exact things I brought with me to training camp!

I have to admit, I was a tiny bit skeptical about the sports drink only/energy gel plan, but the next day I decided to try his system, and it actually worked well. Sipping sports drinks every 10-15 minutes and consuming gels every 15-30 minutes with a couple bars along the way kept me going for 5 hours on the bike with very little hunger. And my calves never cramped.

The hardest part of of our second day of riding was when our team had another scary crash. It happened just a short time after we set out on our long ride. We were all cruising together, with the faster pack up ahead, all of us facing straight into the blinding early morning sun, when someone hit a large rock or some other debris in the road, which caused him to bang into another rider, who in turn knocked into somebody else, who then flipped over his tri bars. It left the team reeling, but everyone stayed calm, directed traffic around our injured teammate, and tried to attend to the other two who were banged up while we waited for the paramedic unit to arrive. This crash involved another broken collarbone, three broken ribs and a possible a collapsed lung. Ugh. Our hearts are heavy for our fellow teammate whose Ironman dream is now on hold. 😦

Needless to say, we were all shaky, especially this newbie who knows how much her family worries about her every time she’s on the road. One of our team leaders, Brian, did something that made all the difference. First, he insisted that we move the group out of the way to give the medical team more room to work, then he made us continue on the ride. At the first stop light he turned around, looked straight at me and said, “Okay, everybody all right? Now shake it off.” It was the exact terse command I needed to get my head back in the game and focus so it didn’t happen to me or anybody else.

The shoulder of the Beeline Highway was filled with even more debris than the day before, perhaps from the wind, including broken tiles, sticks, glass and an entire tree branch, which made navigating tricky at times. Throw in drivers who had pulled off on the side, then pulled out again without looking, we had a recipe for a not-so-relaxing ride. The team goal was to do two laps on the highway before finishing back at Tempe Town Park, but my coach, Matt, wanted me to get in 75 miles, which meant I’d be doing 3 loops.

After refueling at the SAG wagon one last time, I set out solo on my third loop while everyone else headed back to Tempe Town Park to start their run. The entire day I was hyper-focused and often repeated to myself, “Don’t f%#k up. Don’t f%#k up.” I’d been working too hard all year to get to this point to let a lapse in focus end this journey.


Teammates Lisa, Christine and Pam from TriSports.com. These ladies are fierce and funny, and you can’t believe how strong they are on the bike!


Kristina and Lindsay rocking the SAG wagon. Photo credit: Misha Osborne (THE most supportive teammate, sticking it out, taking pictures, and cheering us on even with her broken collarbone. Now THAT is an Iron(wo)man if ever there was one).

Thankfully I didn’t get a flat when I was out there on my own. Many of my teammates did, including Colin, who got 4 flats. As I rode back in to Tempe Town Park where the rest of the team was finishing up their runs, I discovered that I actually did get a flat too, but it didn’t deflate until I got back safe and sound at the park. How lucky is that?

One of my awesome teammates, Michael MacGregor, offered to change it for me, and after riding 75 miles and running in the blistering heat, I didn’t argue. Thank you Michael! Did I mention how supportive all our teammates are? Michael works with the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) and changes flats all the time for those who can’t, so he had this done in the time it would have taken me to get my back wheel off my bike.

Here are a couple snaps from my run. I didn’t take many because I knew when I was getting chills in the heat, it was time to get back to home base.


After my run, I was mooooore than ready to be back at the hotel and out of the heat, but I still had to pick up my race packet for the Tempe LifeTime Tri, which I was doing the next day, along with several of my teammates. Packet pick-up was right in the park, so it wasn’t a huge deal. It just required standing in long lines with no shade. Eventually, I got my race packet, went to the mandatory athlete meeting, picked up another spare tube at the expo, and racked my bike before walking back to the hotel.

As you can see from all the bikes, this tri was much bigger than any I had ever done, so it gave me a taste of what IMAZ will be like in November, which will have 2,800-3,000 athletes.


After hoofing it back to the hotel, stopping briefly to pick up a sandwich along the way, I showered and put my feet up for a bit before meeting the team for a presentation from the IMAZ race director, Judy Stowers. Smile Train had organized a private Q & A session with her so we could get all the information we wanted before the race. This definitely made it feel real. Can hardly wait! She reassured us that the bike course would be clear of debris and also closed to traffic on race day.

Then it was another evening of organizing gear, mixing up bottles of hydration and packing everything up to check out in the morning (no rest for the weary!). Once again, it was a late night, and another insanely early morning. This time 4:00 am. Transition opened at 4:45, but since my bike was already racked, I didn’t arrive until 5:30.


Bleary-eyed in the transition area, with fellow Smile Train teammate Scott Kadous–one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet.

I was relaxed about this race (as much as one can be) because I was doing it as a training run rather than an all-out pedal to the metal race. After riding 113 miles over the previous two days, I wasn’t sure how my body would hold up, but I knew it would be fun to see.

And indeed it was! The swim start was unlike any I’d ever done. Each wave jumped off the steps into the lake and swam 50-100 m to the starting buoys where we tread water until the horn went off. I heard many ladies joking that they were already exhausted before it started. I was happy to have a little warm-up, but was also glad when we finally got going.

I have to say, my swim was less than stellar (ok, it pretty much sucked–ha ha), but it was mostly because I was super hungry the whole time. I had run out of my usual pre-race/training breakfast food at the hotel and didn’t have time to go to the store, so I simply had half a banana and a yogurt and hoped for the best. Bad call. I was also completely out of energy gels and the expo didn’t sell any (really?). Nothing like starting a race depleted.

swimfinish2tempetriswim Photo credit: Misha Osborne
I was happy to be out of the water, but it was soooo good for me to do this race, and be in the jostle of swimmers once again and experience swimming completely blind into the sun, as that’s what it will be like during IMAZ. I will be figuring out tinted goggles for November, that’s for sure.

On the bike I was sucking down as much Tailwind sports drink as I could to get some calories in me, and also chomping on some Honey Stingers, which helped tremendously. I never really had my legs on the bike though, but I had fun trying to push them to work harder while I cheered on people who looked like they were doing their first tri and others who looked like they were struggling. I also held back a tiny bit, trying to work on pacing so I had something left for the run.

As I headed out on my second loop, I saw my teammate Christine standing on the sidewalk with a volunteer. She had another flat. Argh. I got a flat too, but thankfully, it didn’t happen until I finished the bike portion and pulled back into transition. I don’t know how I lucked out two days in a row, but I’ll take it.

Surprisingly, my legs felt good on the run. Heat was the biggest challenge. I carried my Tailwind and BASE salts and powered along though, passing lots of people along the way. Since I wasn’t “race racing” I also took the time to make a pitstop at a porta potty so my bladder wouldn’t explode after all I drank on the bike, and I also stopped at aid stations and poured several cups of water over my head and put ice down my jogbra and shirt. It made all the difference.

Needless to say, I was happy to have this one in the books. It was the perfect ending to an inspiring weekend.

Happily whooped, having ridden 138 miles, run 15 miles and swam 2.5 miles in 3 days. Life is good. Next time it will all be in one day!

And then it was time to pack up and drive all the way back home. So long Tempe…until November!

In case you’re wondering what the week looked like before Tempe, here’s a peek at my schedule:

Monday: Strength, Run 45 minutes
Tuesday: Bike 2 hours
Wednesday: Swim 3500y
Thursday: Drive to Tempe (9 hours), Swim race 750 M
Friday: Bike 38 miles, Run 6.2 miles, Swim 1900y
Saturday: Bike 75 miles, Run 3 miles
Sunday: Race Tempe Triathlon (Olympic/International Distance–Swim 1500m, Bike 25.08 miles, Run 6.11 miles). Drive home.

Here are a few snaps from earlier in the week:

Monday I was running a little low on energy, most likely from my century ride a couple days prior. It was also a gray, dreary day (so unusual for SB), which made me want to curl up with a book and cup of coffee. Instead, I forced myself to do some strength work at home as Killer Kate was out of town. I did all the usual planks, squats, push-ups yadda yadda and a few bridges, bird dogs and bicep and tricep curls. Nothing big, but at least it was something.

bridge  birddog tricepcurlsbicepcurls
It took me until 6:30 pm to finally drag my butt out the door for my run. I rarely ever run in the evening because it’s not my thing, and it’s also usually dinner and homework time, but now that my daughter has a late ballet class on Mondays, I have the option to dilly dally all day if I want (not sure that’s a good thing). Once again, I ran along East Beach and on the soft grass of Chase Palm Park. It definitely felt like summer was over.


Tuesday’s ride was a 2-hour jaunt from my house through Hope Ranch, up Cliff Drive, then to Padero Lane and back. Short and Sweet.

After my swim workout on Wednesday, I spent the day packing for Arizona. The amount of stuff I took was ridiculous, but because I was driving, I didn’t even bother being critical and paring it down. I had the whole car to myself so when in doubt, I just threw it all in with my bike.
I set out at the crack of dawn on Thursday morning…and you know the rest of the story.

I think one of the reasons this training camp felt so empowering is because it stretched me in so many new ways. I don’t know about you, but I always feels good trying new things, pushing hard and seeing how I fare. Not knowing a soul, driving solo, doing all the training, getting very little sleep for days on end, racing, then driving all the way home the same day…it all added to a weekend of growth and epic fun.

So now we’re getting down to the real deal here. IMAZ is exactly two months away. Now I can visualize it all and taste the delicious challenge that lies ahead, knowing how difficult it will be to accomplish, and how exhilarating it will be to cross the finish line. I can hardly wait for race day to arrive.

Thanks for all your phenomenal support along the way, dear peeps!

xo Becky

PS: As always, if you missed any of my previous posts about Ironman training, you can click on the links below:

Kicking off My Journey to Ironman Arizona
Week One of Ironman Training: Believe
Week Two of Ironman Training: The Power of Friends
Week Three of Ironman Training: I Think I Can
Week Four of Ironman Training: Progress
Week Five of Ironman Training: Wind at my Back (and Front) and Peeps by My Side
Week Six of Ironman Training: Baking a Cake
Week Seven of Ironman Training: Courage
Week Eight of Ironman Training: It’s All About the Base
OMG, You did WHAT?! (AKA Sleep Deprivation + Training = Embarrassing Moments)
Week Nine of Ironman Training: Growing Pains
Week Ten of Ironman Training: Trust
Week 11 of Ironman Training: Speedbumps and Breakthroughs
Week 12 of Ironman Training: A Bundle of Sticks Can’t Be Broken
Week 13 of Ironman Training: Spring!

Week 14 of Ironman Training: Rollercoaster
Week 15 and 16 of Ironman Training: Staying Happy and Healthy

Week 17 and 18 Ironman Training: Inspiration and Purple Rain
Weeks 19 through 21 of Ironman Training: Transitions

Week 22 and 23 of Ironman Training: Holy Epicness…Julie Moss
Week 24 of Ironman Training: Consistency is the Key
Week 25 of Ironman Training: Embracing New Challenges
Week 26 of Ironman Training: Hills, They’re What’s for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
Week 27 of Ironman Training: Taking This Show on the Road (Tri-cation!)
Week 27 of Ironman Training: High Altitude Tri-cation
Week 27 of Ironman Training: High Altitude Fun Continues
Week 28 of Ironman Training: Rocky Mountain High
Week 28 of Ironman Training: Finishing Aspen Strong
Week 29 and 30 of Ironman Training: Rollercoasters, Crazies, and Comebacks
Week 31 of Ironman Training: New Heights
Week 32 of Ironman Training: 100 Days to Go
Week 33 of Ironman Training: The Art of Recovery and Balance
Week 34 of Ironman Training: The Magic of Firsts
Week 35 of Ironman Training:Chasing the M-Dot with Toughness Training
Week 36 of Ironman Training: Miles of Opportunities

Week Eight of Ironman Training: It’s All about the Base

It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly two months since I started training for Ironman Arizona! Each week has been fun and challenging, and super gratifying as I’ve knocked out each day’s workout–sometimes just barely and other times feeling like a million bucks.

One thing I’ve noticed as I’ve slowly gotten stronger is that I’ve also gotten more impatient with myself. I feel like I should be doing more, going farther and definitely going faster, even though at the end of each week I’m spent.

When my inner competitor needles me, I know I need to holler back, “Hold it there, sister. Instead of being in the moment and training where you’re at, you’re trying to jump ahead of yourself and train where you want to be. That’s where you get yourself into trouble with injuries. Don’t even think about it.”

I also remind myself that I’m still in the base training phase, and that helps me chill out–at least  little. I know I have to trust the process, which has a slow, deliberate build-up. I WILL get stronger and faster as each week progresses…if I’m stay smart about it.


Here’s this week’s schedule:
Monday: Swim 2800 y (1.59 miles), then Kate’s strength & stretch class
Tuesday: Run 75 minutes, followed by 1 hour bike ride
Wednesday: My favorite yoga class (yay!!!), then 1 spin class followed by a 50 minute ride outside
Thursday: Swim 2000 y, then Kristine’s Pilates class
Friday: Mini tri–1000 y swim, 4 hour bike ride with hills, Run 30 min off the bike (I’m heading out the door right now to go enjoy this one!)
Saturday: Run 1 h 40 min.
Sunday: off
Highlights: To keep myself from focusing too much on my pace/speed, I decided to go for a run on Jesusita Trail. It’s exactly what I needed. You simply cannot run as fast on trails as you can on a road, so it’s a perfect way to relax and enjoy your surroundings, focusing on where you are and what you’re doing rather than what you think you should be doing. Aaahh.

Progress: While swimming is definitely still a work-in-progress, I’ve turned the corner on it mentally. I no longer dread going to the pool. Instead, I’m starting to look forward to it, which is a HUGE difference from where I started eight weeks ago.

Another bike fit: Bruce at Hazard’s dropped my handlebars another 1.5 cm and moved my seat forward another 1.5 cm as we slowly get my road bike more tri-ready. These small shifts may seem inconsequential, but it’s part of the slow process of getting to where we’ll eventually be (notice a theme here?). By going slow and letting my body adapt to each change, I’m less likely to get injured. We’ll be adjusting it again next week.









Fun stuff: I joined the Santa Barbara Tri Club last week, something I’ve contemplated many times over the years, but never followed through with for one reason or another. I’m excited I finally took the plunge as I can already tell it’s going to be a fun group, and I’ll learn a lot and become a better athlete by training with them.

Looking forward: I signed up for my first century ride this week too! I’ll be riding in the Solvang Metric Century on March 12th to continue building my base and enjoy riding with other people. Riding solo for 4 hours at a time can get a bit tedious so this will be a treat. The next one I do will be a full century, which will help build my confidence for the 112 mile bike portion of Ironman AZ.

Cheers: Congratulations to Randy Glick for being the lucky winner of my drawing for The Boys in the Boat! Thank you for your commitment to supporting my Ironman journey and Smile Train!! Randy has already read the book, so he wanted me to give it away to the next supporter. The next person to donate to my fundraising page will receive my copy of this book. Here’s the link to donate: http://support.smiletrain.org/site/TR/AthleticsEvent/General?px=3630403&pg=personal&fr_id=1701


Cheers to my supporters and to my Team Empower teammates!

Okay, it’s time for me to head out the door to continue building my base. Looking forward to today’s long workout! Woot! Hope you all have a great Friday!


As always, if you missed any of my previous posts about how this big Ironman adventure started, you can click on the links below:

Week Two of Ironman Training: The Power of Friends

IMAZLogoIt’s full speed ahead into my second “official” week of Ironman training and it has brought nothing but joy. Who knew acquiring so many tired muscles could be this much fun? I just keep taking it one day, one workout at a time. That’s how I’m going to get to the starting line of Ironman Arizona in November. #ithinkican #ithinkican #ithinkican

Here’s what this week’s schedule looks like:

Monday: Rest (aaaaah), core and stretching pm

Tuesday: Run 35 minutes, (Killer)Kate’s strength & stretch class, more core and stretching pm

Wednesday: Swim 1900 y followed by 2 back-to-back spinning classes, core and stretching pm

Thursday: Run 40 minutes, core and stretching pm

Friday: Swim 1600 y, core and stretching pm

Saturday: Run 60 minutes, upper body strength, core and stretching pm

Sunday: Bike 3 hours, core and stretching pm

Celebrating: Last week I celebrated turning the Big 5-0 by riding 50 miles in spinning class then having more fitness fun with friends the following day, on my actual birthday. “Keep Calm and BRING IT ON!” is what I say, and yes, every girl should run with a tiara on her birthday.



Photo credit: Randy Weiss Presidio Sports

Gratitude: I already have so many people I’m grateful for on this Ironman Journey. There isn’t a day that goes by that somebody doesn’t do or say something nice. My friend and Moms in Motion tri coach, Whitney Bruice, took time out of her busy morning last week to come help me try to improve my swim stroke. Coach Whitney is a phenomenal swimmer and triathlete (not to mention a mother of two and a busy working professional), so it was exciting to hear she thought my stroke looked fairly solid, with the exception of a slight cross-over on my left side. I have A LOT more time ahead of me in the pool working on technique and building up my speed, strength and endurance, but it was reassuring to know that at least I’m headed in the right direction. Thank you Whitney!

JenniMillerThe other person who has been exceptionally helpful this week is my friend Jenni Miller, who is also a busy mother of two, an attorney, activist/philanthropist (Strides for SMS) and an outstanding athlete. She completed her first Ironman last summer (and CRUSHED IT by the way–top 10% in her age group), and she has been giving me great advice and tons of encouragement. It’s often the smallest details that make the biggest difference–from goggle selections to fueling to fav bike shorts. Her generosity and enthusiasm have added a huge dollop of happy in my happiness jar. Jenni is currently training for Ironman Lake Placid, which will take place in July, and is sure to rip that up too! Go girl!

I’m also grateful for all the people who have contributed to my Smile Train fundraising! With the support of Ana, Hensley, Jessica, Namita, Tim and Jo, the Clyne girls, the Rybniceck Family and the Whelan Family, we have already raised $1,075! That means four kids are already going to get life-changing cleft palate/lip surgery. My goal is 20 kids. Each surgery costs as little as $250 and only takes 45 minutes, but has enormous implications for improving the life of a child and his or her family. If you want to be part of making a big difference in somebody’s life, you can click HERE to donate.

Spinning forward: Yesterday I got aero bars and a bike fit from Bruce Davis at Hazard’s Cyclesport using the Guru Fit System. What I like most about Hazard’s is that you don’t have to be a gearhead to be treated like an awesome athlete (even if you’re a work-in-progress like me). Bruce had me up and running in no time and explained all the details along the way about geometry, balance and power. I’m excited to get out on the road and gobble up some miles. Bruce told me not to smile for this picture, which was hard, so I look like I swallowed a bird. I guess that just means I’m ready to fly, baby!


Challenges: Sleep. I know how important sleep is for recovery, but damn if it isn’t elusive for this chiquita. If it isn’t one thing, it’s another. I’m trying to force myself to take naps, but it’s never easy.

Breakthroughs: Learning to change a flat and patch a tube with confidence. I haven’t had a flat in 20 years (I know, crazy, huh?), so I haven’t had any practice doing it. Last Sunday, right before I was about to join some friends for a long ride, I was putting air in my tire and the top of the stem valve broke off. Batta boom, that’s all she wrote. Fortunately, it happened in my garage so I didn’t have to bumble through it on the side of the road on a cold, rainy day or be the ridiculous damsel in distress who called for a pick-up. YouTube videos are the bomb, I tell you.

What I’ve learned: Always check your gear the night before so you don’t have any obstacles the morning of training. It’s hard enough to get out the door sometimes without gear problems, so make sure you’re ready to go. Because of my flat tire, I missed riding with a group of friends, which would have been fun. I also learned to keep experimenting with eating while training as it’s a little bit of an art and a science figuring out how much food your stomach can tolerate. On my last 3 hour bike ride I was running low on energy, but I overdid it a little on Wednesday’s swim/double-spin workout so the banana I ate sat like a rock in my stomach. Fortunately, I have ample opportunities to keep experimenting. I will get there.

Looking forward to: Getting a new triathlon watch. I’m leaning toward getting a Suunto Ambit 3, but I’m also considering a Garmin 920xt. Any thoughts?


You can help make a child smile by donating to my Team Empower Smile Train fundraising page HERE.

The Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step…Kicking off My Journey to Ironman Arizona

It is with a blaze of excitement that I share my next big adventure with you. It’s something I’ve been dreaming of doing since I was a teenager, and after more than three decades, I’ve finally decided to go for it…my first IRONMAN TRIATHLON!

For those of you who may only be vaguely familiar with IRONMAN, it’s considered one of the more challenging multi-sport endurance events in the world, comprising a total of 140.6 miles:  2.4 mile swim, 112 bike ride, and 26.2 mile run. Competitors must finish the race in under 17 hours. The event I’m participating in will take place in Tempe, AZ on November 20, 2016.

One of many long rides I'll be enjoying during the year ahead as I train for my first Ironman.

One of many long rides I’ll be enjoying during the year ahead as I train for Ironman Arizona.

To be quite honest, I’m still pinching myself that I finally hit the registration button after thinking about doing this for 34 years (when I first watched Julie Moss crawl across the finish line on Wide World of Sports in 1982), and I’m slightly terrified that I’ll fail , but I’m far more excited about the epic journey ahead! Woot! Woot! This is a whopper of a birthday present to myself on the 21st anniversary of my 29th year…a gift of time and resources to chase after my dream.

My mantra is one day and one workout at at time. Train smart. Have fun. Enjoy the journey.

On another note, most of you know philanthropy is an important part of my life–on my very “regular person, non-Rockefeller or Bill Gates” level. Like you, I try to do what I can, when I can, and hope it makes a small difference in the world. While I normally raise funds for cancer research, for this race I’ve branched out and joined TEAM EMPOWER, which is affiliated with the race, raising funds for a very inspiring organization called SMILE TRAIN.

Smile Train is an international children’s charity providing free surgery for children suffering from cleft lip and cleft palate. Children born with cleft cannot eat or speak properly, aren’t allowed to attend school or hold a job and face very difficult lives of shame and isolation, pain and heartache. Some children are even abandoned or killed—all because of the way they look. Their clefts usually go untreated because they can’t afford the simple repair surgery that takes as little as 45 minutes and costs as little as $250 dollars.

My goal is to raise $5,000 during IM AZ, which will change the lives of 20 kiddos. This completely tangible goal makes me smile just thinking about it!

I would be honored and grateful if you would consider contributing to my Smile Train fund as I take on one of the toughest athletic challenges of my life. And because I love celebrating your support and generosity…

The first 15 people to contribute $250 will be entered into a raffle for a $100 Amazon gift card. That’s a 1 in 15 chance, and the best part is that you will personally be changing the life of one child and his or her entire family! How cool is that?!?

The first 15 people to contribute $100 will be entered into a raffle for a $25 Amazon gift card. And of course, any amount you are able to donate is appreciated–even if it’s equivalent to a cup of coffee. It all adds up!

HERE IS THE LINK TO MY SMILE TRAIN FUNDRAISING PAGE: http://support.smiletrain.org/goto/beckyaaronson. All donations are 100% tax deductible.

Thanks for considering, and thanks for being part of this epic year ahead!! Your good thoughts will make all the difference in getting me to the starting line!!!

Let the adventure begin!

xo Becky